The highs and lows of strength training in the “scary man section”!

4newNine months ago when I started working with Alex as my fitness coach I was terrified by the idea of weight training!  The thought of the “scary man section” at the gym, weights and muscles was not something I was remotely excited about.  I’d always had this idea of being slender and toned, I didn’t want to be big and built.  And here was my coach telling me I was going to be building muscle.  I was not seeing it from his perspective.  He had his work cut out for him!

Okay, I’ve always hated cardio, hammering it out on the cross-trainer and the treadmill has never been my thing.  But when given the alternative of complicated weight training workouts, I was almost receptive to the idea of being strapped to a treadmill or sent to a spinning class.

The process started slowly, and Alex patiently explained the benefits of strength training – over and over again.  I had a vision of biceps that developed overnight and overly strong thigh muscles.  My legs were big enough already – they did  not  need to get any bigger.  All I was interested in was a flat stomach and much slimmer legs.  It took me a while to understand that the fat was not simply going to  be replaced by muscle, but that I was going to build muscle and lose the fat.  That fat is far more voluminous than muscle and I was not going to turn into a 95kg body builder.

Slowly I was introduced to the basic movements, which are far more difficult to do than they look, especially when I watch the pros that I follow on FaceBook and Instagram. Alex has helped me to understand proper technique and movement, and my body started to respond.  Slowly (and sometimes painfully) at first while I learned how to squat, lunge, leg press, dead lift and use the other equipment in the gym.  And instead of muscles starting to spring up, the fat and centimetres (hips, waist & thigh) started to fall away.  Untitled

The initial months of my training consisted of learning how to do things right – Alex is a stickler for correct technique, form and movement that’s not going to cause injury.  And funnily enough as my body began to change, I became more excited about the strength training.  It was motivating to see my form improving and how my body was responding.  Small improvements in the sets, reps and weight I was doing began to push me to do better. And I was not turning into a female version of Mr. Universe.  Suddenly I wanted to look less like the skinny, Hollywood waifs, and more like the women competing in Cross Fit events.

I have started wanting to be strong and lean, with a great ass and a toned stomach, not skinny and weak.  And after nine months, I look at the training completely differently…and I actually fee quite at home in the “scary  man section” at the gyms I workout at. I have a different idea of how I want my body to look and the kind of shape I want to have.  I’m far more interested in being stronger than I am in being thinner.  And that idea is constantly changing as I see my work paying off.

Of course it’s not always easy.  Sometimes I get caught up in thinking and working towards outcomes goals (mainly some preconceived scale weight I have randomly plucked from the ethos), rather than those focusing on my behaviour.  There are times when my body feels weak and spongy, and not that keen to lift, press or push anything that weighs more than a couple of kilos, but after a day or so, I am ready to get back to it. I am not in the gym more than 4 or 5 times a week, and sometimes less than that.  It doesn’t happen at the expense of everything else, and I have learned to be more self-loving and gentle when I don’t make a scheduled day’s training.  My mindset around the entire process has changed…

I don’t give up on a week’s training, because I missed a day here and there.  I simply refocus and move forward.  And that’s a huge shift for me.  Missing a day in the past was all I needed to put my exercise on hold.  But because I am more focused on behaviour I am better able to see a missed day for what it is.  Sometimes extra recovery time, sometimes rest, sometimes because I am just too busy at work.  Now I don’t chastise myself for being useless, lazy and procrastinating… I give myself the reward of time or rest, and don’t get caught up in a negative thought cycle about myself and my fitness programme.

And as for my muscles…well they are definitely not bulging out of my jeans and T-shirt. Rather, they are growing and strengthening quite nicely, and I am really happy about how they look (especially when they are working out).  I feel confident and self-assured in the gym now, even happy to ask the guys in the gym if the equipment is free.  Okay, I am still a little self conscious when it comes to hip thrusts, but I am getting there.  And one of these days I’ll even feel good enough to do lunges across the weight floor (at Old Eds Virgin Active).

So onward I press, push, pull and lift to a body and mind that are healthy, aware, strong, supportive and in line with my growing value of long-term fitness, health and wellness.

With Challenge Comes Change!

Sometimes it feels like the closer I get, the slower and more challenging everything about my fitness & nutrition coaching programme feels.  And I forget how far I have come!  And I have a lot to be grateful for.  

CHALLENGE AND CHANGESometimes it feels like the closer I get, the slower and more challenging everything about my fitness & nutrition coaching programme feels.  And I forget how far I have come!  And I have a lot to be grateful for.  I got into my first pair of size 12 jeans in almost ten years this last weekend, my weight is in the healthy range, I am in pretty much the best shape of my adult life, and I am feeling great about the relationship with myself, and starting to really make headway on developing a healthy, nurturing relationship with food.  And when I put it down here it all sounds blissful and easy, but then there’s the more challenging reality of the last 12 months.

I have learned about flexible dieting, and learning to eat in a sustainable way that works for me!  And that has been great, but there have been days when my dinner feels like a science calculation made up of numbers, calories & macros, and I have had to work hard sometimes to enjoy my food.  But although it feels pervasive at the time, it is never permanent,  and I go back to enjoying the incredible food I have been eating…and have still lost 25kgs!

There’s been hunger…deep, emotionally-upsetting hunger, that makes me want to run screaming to the nearest shop and stock up on my trigger foods, particularly party packs of Doritos & tubs of ice cream!  I’ve had to develop new coping techniques and not jump into a food binge!  Because when I go there, I come out the other side remorseful, guilty and ashamed.  And I am learning through honesty, authenticity, openness, humility and courage that I am not the only person in the world who deals with my emotions through the misuse of food.  Working with Alex has helped me to improve that reactionary action, and tap into my healthy responses and resources when faced with stressful life events!  So, the hunger, like the eat-by-numbers, doesn’t stick around forever, but is just a passing feeling that needs to be confronted and understood, rather than trying to hide from it (in a BIIIIIG bag of spicy snacks).

So even in the fear and frustration, there has been immense learning.  Lessons that will stick with me long after the hunger and the irritation have faded.  I am learning to love and understand my body and appreciate what it can accomplish.  That’s never more satisfying then after an amazing workout at the gym.  Where I am focused, and feel strong and motivated.  When the sets simply peel off one after the other with seemingly little effort, and I am proud of the changing shape I see in the mirrors (which I have actually learned not to hide from).  And then there are those days when I want to stick  my finer in my coach’s eye and tell him that it’s too difficult, and I am too weak and that he doesn’t understand what it’s like to be me.

But those days too pass, and are neither pervasive or permanent, and the feedback I am getting from Alex is not personal.  One of  my biggest challenges through all of this has been learning to listen to feedback, rather than seeing it as criticism and becoming defensive.  It’s become evident that this has not only been something I needed to work on in the gym and as with other elements of my journey of the last 12 months’ have taught me so many things about myself and how I show up in my life.

I have had to really dig deep, adapt the way I see and feel about myself,  the way I perceive my life and my mindset, thought patterns, my emotions and environment.  I am able to look in a mirror and admire the consistency, practice and effort I have put in.   And the challenges I have faced have taught me an enormous amount about myself and how I see the world.  And with a coach like Alex in my corner, I have pushed forward rather than simply giving up when things got difficult.

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